Category Archives: Education

Aging and the self-fulfilling prophecy

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

—Henry Ford

It turns out this truism applies to the ways we perceive the aging process itself. Research shows that older adults who view aging as a time of continued learning and development are physically more resilient. They seem to weather a setback and regain their mobility and independence more readily. They stay healthier and live longer than their peers who view aging primarily as a time of decline.

As a society we tend to hold aging in a negative light. But studies have found that advanced years do indeed bring many benefits. When compared to younger generations, for instance, older adults generally are more able to

  • focus on the positives
  • tune out the negatives
  • relax and accept who they are

The wisdom of aging may be that older adults recognize life is too short to “sweat the small stuff.” And with accumulated years, they have developed more coping skills for life’s inevitable rough spots.

Get this self-fulfilling prophecy working in your loved one’s favor! Try asking some of these questions to help him or her identify the special strengths of aging:

  • If you were suddenly 20 again, what skills or wisdom would you miss?
  • What has helped you through hard times in the past? Look for ways to emphasize these skills or resources.
  • What people, activities, or situations tend to leave you feeling positive? Consider ways to emphasize these resources. For many older adults, family and social interactions bring the greatest joy.
  • What is the ‘gift’ in your situation right now? With aging, we frequently come to realize that in every situation the good coexists with the bad. Even people with incurable diseases can usually identify something positive they have learned as a result of their condition.

Is the glass looking half empty?

Let our strengths-based approach give everyone a fresh perspective. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help with a realistic picture of the glass-half-full side of the equation. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Distraction Techniques

If the person you care for has a problem with memory loss (dementia), you may find that he or she gets agitated about things that don’t make sense. Your long-retired dad, for instance, may wake up in the mornings and insist, “I have to go to work!” It can be confusing for you. And frustrating!

Disregarding these comments will only make your relative more determined. And it’s pointless to try to reason. The disease has robbed that ability. Instead, spend some time connecting with your loved one in “their reality,” and then distract them.

Compose yourself. Your body language, face, and tone of voice speak volumes. People with dementia still perceive respect versus dismissal. If you need time to calm yourself, make an excuse to get something from the car or to go to the bathroom, so you can return refreshed.

Validate their concern. “Gosh, Dad, I see you are ready to go. I wish I had your enthusiasm about work! Is there something special at work today?” By joining in their emotional reality, you are not telling them they are wrong. They feel reassured you understand.

Distract. Engage them in a fond memory of something related. “Remember your first client back when the business was new? What was it they had you do?” As you reminisce, consider walking together into another room to shift their attention. Once in the other room, draw on their forgetfulness and eventually offer an alternative activity: “I’m hungry. Let’s have breakfast” or “Oh look at that messy walkway! Would you sweep it? That would really help.”

Reflect. If your relative obsesses on things that don’t make sense, look for triggers or the underlying meaning. If Dad associates morning with time to go to work, have a task for him to do that addresses that need—in this case, to feel productive.

Does your loved one get agitated often?

It can be very wearing when a relative gets stuck, especially about things that aren’t real to us. We at Senior Life Management have a lot of experience with dementia. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you learn validation and distraction techniques. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

The Value of Nostalgia

Nostalgia

Nostalgia has historically gotten a bad rap, viewed as a precursor to feelings of sadness and longing. Emotional downers.

Today we know that’s a faulty assumption. Research shows that nostalgia typically brightens mood. This is because nostalgia helps us in many ways:

  • Focus on the positive in our past. People, events, places. We remember good times with maybe a laugh or a chuckle.
  • Gain a fuller perspective on the meaning of our life. Recalling past activities and roles increases our life satisfaction and boosts self-esteem.
  • Remember ourselves in connection with others. Even if we’re alone at the moment, we affirm our close ties with others.
  • See ourselves as beloved and belonging. Remembering our importance to others can help ease anxieties about life and end-of-life.

The consequence of nostalgia is more positive thinking. Even when memories are tinged with bittersweet, research shows that nostalgia has a “redemptive” value. When we’re recalling an event that has some sad or disappointing aspects, we end up focusing on the positive. It’s a natural process of sifting through life stories and saving the good stuff.

Plus, those positive feelings generated by nostalgia help combat loneliness. That makes nostalgia a good coping mechanism. By the elder years, many peers have moved or died. And age and disease put real limits on a person’s ability to meet new people and forge new friendships. By reminiscing when we’re feeling lonely, we change our perception of our self. We rekindle our sense of belonging and regain a sense of social support. And that’s enough to change our mood.

So next time mom launches into another story from her past, remind yourself that she’s using a valuable coping skill.

Worried about a loved one’s isolation?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management notice that older adults often feel isolated and lonely. It’s amazing what a trip down memory lane can do to lift their mood, however. If you are concerned about someone you care for, give us a call at 949-716-1266. We can help you with perspective and resources to improve the situation.

Starting a safe walk routine

Walking for exercise is recommended for every phase of life! Walking is the easiest physical activity to engage in, and it brings multiple benefits. The ability to get around readily is often the deciding factor in whether an older adult can stay living at home.

Many older adults are hesitant to walk much. If you sense resistance, ask your loved one about concerns. He or she may be afraid of falling, or of the neighborhood. Other common obstacles include foot problems, uncomfortable shoes, depression, or poor eyesight.

Begin by getting the doctor’s approval. Getting the thumbs up from the doctor may help your relative get going. Even short 10-minute walks are beneficial.

Review safe walking practices:

  • What to bring. Dress in layers. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. Choose flexible shoes that fit well and provide a nonslip sole. Carry a cell phone or other device for emergency help. Bring water. And bring any usual walking aids, such as a cane or walker, properly fitted to your relative’s size.
  • Where to walk. When weather permits, walk outdoors. Choose smooth-surfaced, well-lit, and low-traffic locations. This might be a walking path in the neighborhood or a nearby school or park. In bad weather or overly hot weather, try a shopping mall.
  • How to walk. Focus on deep breathing and good posture. The goal is natural, even strides with arms swinging easily. Eventually the pace should be brisk enough to raise the heart rate yet permit conversation. But in the beginning, you want it to be easy and fun so it will become an enjoyable habit.

Ideally, see if your loved one can find a walking buddy or walking group. Especially for people who are not used to exercise, it’s more fun when it’s part of a social activity.

We at Senior Life Management regularly witness the value of a walking routine. Walking promotes balance and well-being. In addition, it’s a great remedy for social isolation if done with others. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, supporting walking is one of the best ways you can support your loved one’s independence. To learn more, give us a call at 949-716-1266.

The power of sleep

When your schedule gets tight, is sleep one of the first things to go? According to the experts, that’s all too common. And it makes about as much sense as deciding to do without food, air, or water. Sleep is that essential.

Most adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

Sleep promotes brain function and mood.

  • Mental focus. Sleep helps keep us sharp. It supports concentration, problem solving, and productivity.
  • Emotional stability. Sleep helps us cope with change and difficult circumstances. Too little sleep contributes to reactivity and/or depression.
  • Prevention of memory loss. New studies indicate that the brain may use sleep as a time to clean out the harmful proteins that build up in persons with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Sleep is essential to physical health.

  • Healing and repair. The tissues of the heart and blood vessels particularly need sleep time for repair. Getting too little sleep for too long doubles your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Maintaining normal weight. Lack of sleep changes the production of hormones that regulate hunger and blood sugar. This can lead to weight gain and/or diabetes.
  • Fighting infection. Adequate sleep helps keep your immune system strong.

Tips to support good sleep:

  • Exercise daily (but not right before bed), and get some sunlight each day.
  • Maintain a steady sleep and wake schedule throughout the week, including weekends.
  • One hour before bedtime, wind down with calm activities. Cut out bright lights, such as from a TV or computer screen.
  • Avoid heavy eating, caffeine, and alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom a cool, quiet sanctuary for sleep, and use your bed only for sleep or sex.
  • Use short daytime naps for a boost if necessary (maximum 30 minutes). Naps can otherwise interfere with nighttime sleep and do not provide the same type of healing rest.

Sleep is not a waste of time! Getting enough sleep not only feels good, it gives you the stamina and resilience you need to juggle all your responsibilities effectively.

Losing sleep over caregiving?

At Senior Life Management, we understand there are only so many hours in a day. It’s hard to get everything done so it’s tempting to stay up late or get up early. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help. Start the new year out protecting your health. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. You deserve a good night’s sleep!

What to do with their stuff?

stuff

Perhaps your loved one is downsizing. Or maybe planning a move to assisted living or a nursing home. He or she may even have passed away… If you find yourself needing to pack up a relative’s belongings, start by sorting them into five categories:

  • items to keep
  • items to sell
  • items to donate to charity
  • items to shred
  • items to throw away/recycle

Items to keep and to throw away/recycle have obvious action steps. If you have a lot to dispose of, ask the local waste hauler to drop a debris box at the curb.

Items to sell. There are a variety of options for professional help with reselling.

  • Estate liquidators do on-site sales. They review, organize, and price the goods and host a sale in the home. They typically take a percentage fee on what they sell, plus hourly charges. You can find a local referral through the American Society of Estate Liquidators.
  • Auctioneers take a fee for selling items off site.
  • Consignment shops offer items for a set period of time, such as 30 days. They take a commission on sales. Find out what happens if your items don’t sell.
  • Consider selling them on eBay or to an eBay reseller.

Items to donate. You can claim a tax deduction for the fair-market value of items in good condition. Get a dated, itemized receipt from the charity.

Items to shred. If you are going through old bank statements, tax records, or any documents with important financial information—social security numbers, bank account numbers—you will want to shred them to prevent identity theft. Certainly you can shred them at home, but this is time consuming. There are companies that can deliver a container they will pick up later and shred the contents. You may also find a local merchant, such as a photocopy store, that has a shredding container you can put your documents in for a per-pound fee.

Want help with all of it?

A senior move manager. They charge an hourly fee and will do everything from packing to coordinating with resellers to taking leftovers to charity. Check with the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

  • A junk removal service. These companies can remove everything. Get a cost estimate first (ask if there’s a fee for the estimate). They resell items, recycle them, or dispose of them at the local landfill. A nice plus: they finish with a thorough cleanup!

Daunted by the prospect?

Moving or distributing a loved one’s belongings has an emotional component in addition to practical realities. We understand. As the Orange County expert in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management have helped many families through this process. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

The Value of Nostalgia

Nostalgia

Nostalgia has historically gotten a bad rap, viewed as a precursor to feelings of sadness and longing. Emotional downers.

Today we know that’s a faulty assumption. Research shows that nostalgia typically brightens mood. This is because nostalgia helps us in many ways:

  • Focus on the positive in our past. People, events, places. We remember good times with maybe a laugh or a chuckle.
  • Gain a fuller perspective on the meaning of our life. Recalling past activities and roles increases our life satisfaction and boosts self-esteem.
  • Remember ourselves in connection with others. Even if we’re alone at the moment, we affirm our close ties with others.
  • See ourselves as beloved and belonging. Remembering our importance to others can help ease anxieties about life and end-of-life.

The consequence of nostalgia is more positive thinking. Even when memories are tinged with bittersweet, research shows that nostalgia has a “redemptive” value. When we’re recalling an event that has some sad or disappointing aspects, we end up focusing on the positive. It’s a natural process of sifting through life stories and saving the good stuff.

Plus, those positive feelings generated by nostalgia help combat loneliness. That makes nostalgia a good coping mechanism. By the elder years, many peers have moved or died. And age and disease put real limits on a person’s ability to meet new people and forge new friendships. By reminiscing when we’re feeling lonely, we change our perception of our self. We rekindle our sense of belonging and regain a sense of social support. And that’s enough to change our mood.

So next time mom launches into another story from her past, remind yourself that she’s using a valuable coping skill.

Worried about a loved one’s isolation?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management notice that older adults often feel isolated and lonely. It’s amazing what a trip down memory lane can do to lift their mood, however. If you are concerned about someone you care for, give us a call at 949-716-1266. We can help you with perspective and resources to improve the situation.

Plan Ahead when Downsizing

downsizing

 

Moving into a smaller living situation is a big decision. More emotionally challenging, however, are the many little decisions your loved one must make about what to keep and what to let go.

  • Possessions, from knickknacks to garden tools, hold many dear memories. Letting go of them is like discarding the people or events they are associated with.
  • When boxing up the possessions of decades, it’s not a big jump to realize that one day—after dying—these possessions will be boxed up and permanently disbursed. Downsizing can feel like a little death, at the least the death of their younger self.

Allow plenty of time

Senior move experts recommend a minimum of three months’ lead time. A less hurried approach will allow your loved one to ease into the project and savor memories before saying goodbye. Consider these steps:

  • Talk with your family member. Approach the topic carefully: “While we have the luxury of time, Mom, let’s begin to plan how things will fit in your new space. Only you know what’s most important to have with you.”
  • Know what space is available. Obtain measurements or, better yet, visit the new residence and measure the floor space (and the closet space!). Create a layout drawn to scale to help your relative visualize what furniture will fit. Likewise, plot space for books, clothing, hobby materials, and other personal items.
  • Be sensitive. That set of books may never have captured your interest, but they may hold beloved memories for Dad. This is your opportunity to learn the history of treasured possessions. Such sharing helps your loved one say goodbye, and it provides a way to “pay last respects” to parts of his or her past. What you hear may also change your mind about what to keep!
  • Take time. Go at your parent’s pace, even if it seems tortoise-slow to you. If you rush, you’re likely to run into resistance or exhaustion.

Is downsizing on your radar?

We at Senior Life Management have helped many families go through the process of moving to a smaller household. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you support your loved one in making this transition as smoothly and sensitively as possible.

Communicating with Aphasia

If your loved one suddenly developed difficulty with speaking, he or she probably has aphasia, typically from a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Slow or garbled speech can be frustrating for everyone.

Recovery is enhanced by following the advice of speech and occupational therapists. There are even apps to help! Your support is invaluable in terms of bolstering self-worth and confidence.

Try these aphasia communication tips:

  • Remove distractions. Turn off the TV or radio. Move to a room that is quiet.
  • Allow time. It takes more effort to organize thoughts and form words.
  • Let them find the right words. Filling in and guessing what is meant may seem helpful. It actually undermines self-esteem.
  • Listen patiently. Communication is more than an exchange of facts. It’s a way to express personality and competence. As a listener, relate as if you have all the time in the world.
  • Confirm your understanding. Repeat back what you think was said.
  • Keep it simple. Speak in short sentences. Avoid a long string of ideas or requests.
  • Consider apps. There are many mobile- and tablet-based apps for aphasia. Some provide assistance with speech exercises. Others offer symbols your relative can point to instead of speaking. Some even help your loved one stay engaged with others by sending emails and texts based on the symbols!

Create a Communication Card
To help your relative stay engaged and be independent, create a “business card” he or she can pass to waiters, receptionists, merchants, or service providers. Personalize it appropriately:

  • I have aphasia: I have trouble speaking.
  • No need to shout: I am not deaf.
  • I do not have dementia: I think very clearly.
  • Please be patient: Give me time to find my words.

We at Senior Life Management As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you find optimal strategies. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Getting out of the mental spin cycle

Mental Spin Cycle

Do you find yourself in a repetitive cycle of reliving an exchange over and over? Reflecting on experiences gone badly is one way we learn. We think about what happened and look for insights that might promote a positive outcome in a similar situation next time.

But sometimes reflection can be unhealthy. If you find yourself in a memory loop continuously going over a negative experience, it may be more rumination than reflection. Instead of finding a way toward closure, it can be more like picking an emotional scab and not letting the wound heal.

Research suggests that a process of self-distancing can help us gather useful insights without getting stuck in a quagmire of replays. Try this:

  • Describe the event in the third person. Imagine you are an observer of the situation. If you were someone watching the dynamic, what events occurred? Write the “story” from this perspective.
  • Avoid the words “I” and “you.” Instead, use the names of the individuals involved. “Sarah told Bob she thought their dad was not taking all his medicines. Bob, who orders their father’s medicines through the pharmacy, got angry about her comments.”
  • Answer the question “Why?” and list many possible answers. In your description, address why the people did what they did. Then ask yourself, “Do I know for sure that’s the reason?” Think of several alternate explanations. For instance, Bob might find himself exploring whether Sarah brought up the issue because she thinks he’s incompetent, or because she’s noticing something different about their dad’s memory.
  • Describe the event from the future. Project yourself a week or a month down the road. Maybe a year down the road. How are you likely to tell the story? This perspective can reduce the emotional punch of the event and help you distill it down to its salient features.

We at Senior Life Management As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you find optimal strategies. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Distraction Techniques

Distraction Techniques

 

If the person you care for has a problem with memory loss (dementia), you may find that he or she gets agitated about things that don’t make sense. Your long-retired dad, for instance, may wake up in the mornings and insist, “I have to go to work!” It can be confusing for you. And frustrating!

Disregarding these comments will only make your relative more determined. And it’s pointless to try to reason. The disease has robbed that ability. Instead, spend some time connecting with your loved one in “their reality,” and then distract them.

Compose yourself. Your body language, face, and tone of voice speak volumes. People with dementia still perceive respect versus dismissal. If you need time to calm yourself, make an excuse to get something from the car or to go to the bathroom, so you can return refreshed.

Validate their concern. “Gosh, Dad, I see you are ready to go. I wish I had your enthusiasm about work! Is there something special at work today?” By joining in their emotional reality, you are not telling them they are wrong. They feel reassured you understand.

Distract. Engage them in a fond memory of something related. “Remember your first client back when the business was new? What was it they had you do?” As you reminisce, consider walking together into another room to shift their attention. Once in the other room, draw on their forgetfulness and eventually offer an alternative activity: “I’m hungry. Let’s have breakfast” or “Oh look at that messy walkway! Would you sweep it? That would really help.”

Reflect. If your relative obsesses on things that don’t make sense, look for triggers or the underlying meaning. If Dad associates morning with time to go to work, have a task for him to do that addresses that need—in this case, to feel productive.

Does your loved one get agitated often?

It can be very wearing when a relative gets stuck, especially about things that aren’t real to us. We at Senior Life Management have a lot of experience with dementia. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you learn validation and distraction techniques. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

What is an Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy

Eating, dressing, getting in and out of a chair. In the course of daily life, we use many skills to accomplish even “simple” tasks. Walking or using a fork is surprisingly complex. Nerve signals and muscles have to coordinate in a very specific order. A healthy body is a marvel!

We take these skills for granted until something interrupts our abilities. Arthritis, for instance, can make it hard to grasp a fork. A stroke may require a right-handed person to learn to do things with the left hand. The tremor of Parkinson’s can make dressing a challenge.

Occupational therapy can be used to help your loved one

  • remain at home despite a chronic condition;
  • recover from a surgery or other health event;
  • improve the ability to accomplish specific tasks or activities.

Occupational therapists have special training to help people overcome new challenges with the daily tasks of living. A therapist might show your loved one some exercises for better coordination. They might recommend special equipment or supplies. Maybe all that’s needed is a rearrangement of furniture in the house. Or a slightly different approach to doing the same thing.

Occupational therapy can be provided at home or in an outpatient clinic. It usually starts with a home visit. The therapist will

  • watch your loved one perform various tasks;
  • evaluate the home for safety and convenience;
  • recommend exercises and/or home modifications;
  • consider best options for transportation;
  • develop goals based on your relative’s abilities, interest, and budget.

Participate in the visit if you can. That way you learn what might help your family member live to the fullest in spite of limitations.

Ask the doctor for a referral

If you think your loved one would benefit from knowledgeable guidance, ask the doctor for a referral. Occupational therapy is covered by Medicare. Also by Medicaid and most private insurances.

Does life seem harder than it was?

If you notice your loved one struggling to do things that used to be a simple part of daily life, he or she might benefit from the services of an occupational therapist. As the Orange County expert in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management have seen firsthand how much a simple device or a change in approach can transform an elder’s self-sufficiency. If you are concerned about a loved one, give us a call at 949-716-1266.

When Language Falls Apart

Aphasia Disability

 

One common outcome of a stroke or other brain injury is the sudden loss of ability to process language. This disability is called “aphasia disability ” (ah-FAY-zya).

Depending on which part of the brain has been damaged, the affected person may have trouble speaking or trouble understanding. Or may have difficulty with reading or writing.

Needless to say, this is frustrating—for the injured person and family members too!

Aphasia does not change intelligence

People often assume that someone with aphasia can no longer think clearly. Or that hearing is affected. As a result, those with aphasia frequently have others yelling at them. Or acting as if they have dementia. Not true! Hearing remains the same. And unless the stroke or trauma affected the logical thinking portion of the brain, your loved one is just as “smart” as they ever were.

Aphasia does affect relationships and self-esteem

Talking is how we express our personality. It’s also how we interact with those we love. Without full language capabilities, your relative may feel “less than” and withdraw. This can lead to isolation and depression.

Work with the rehab team

It’s important to engage speech and occupational therapists soon after the stroke or trauma to better understand the full impact. They will identify strengths and weaknesses and develop exercises and strategies to help your relative live fully. Don’t get discouraged! Therapy takes practice and time, but it makes a big difference.

Stay engaged

When a loved one struggles with speaking, it’s tempting to want to “help” by doing things for him or her. Help your loved one stay involved with friends, hobbies, and activities, as well as with family discussions and decision making. You may need to get creative and be patient. But staying engaged will help the person you care for regain as much language ability as possible.

Does aphasia have you down?

We at Senior Life Management notice that aphasia is one of the more challenging outcomes of a stroke or brain injury. It affects family relationships and your loved one’s feelings of self-worth. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you find optimal strategies. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.